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Cork Con’s James Taylor on AIL win over Terenure: ‘This is the pinnacle’

Taylor delivered a man-of-the-match performance in an unlikely win, as the Munster side played most of the game with a numerical disadvantage

Cork Con's James Taylor takes a kick as he plays against Terenure in the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A Final at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

If you can’t beat them, join them. Once upon a time there was an aversion to Cork Constitution within James Taylor’s family but not any more there isn’t. He’s had some big days with CBC Cork, UCC and Highfield, but winning the Energia All-Ireland League title last Sunday topped them all.

Taylor was the match-winner for CBC Cork when they beat Crescent in the 2016 Munster Schools final and again for UCC in successive play-offs as they earned and retained Division 1a status in 2019 and 2020, before he spent two post-pandemic/post-collegiate seasons at Highfield.

“The highest”, the 25-year-old said simply when asked to rate Sunday’s 33-22 win over Terenure College at the Aviva Stadium when he landed seven from seven for an 18-point haul that earned him the man-of-the-match award.

“I think I said during the week as well, to win it was always my goal playing senior rugby. The majority of us are amateurs, and this is the pinnacle of our playing. It certainly tops the lot.”

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He described his feelings as “just pure elation”, adding: “It was an incredibly long, tough season, but to get over the line, given the circumstance going down to 12 players as well, was something special.”

Indeed, to have won despite being reduced to 14 men for an hour and even 13 and 12 for spells made this win even more satisfying.

“I think the 12 of us who were on the pitch at that time just had to really dig deep. There was acres of space for Terenure to attack and to be fair, they did. They spread the ball as much as they could but our catch-up defence was top-notch, I must say.

“Like it was epitomised by Mitch [Matthew Bowen], his try-saving tackle. That was a huge momentum shift. We were one point ahead and if they score that, we’re down to however many we were at the time, it would be a long way back from that. Everyone’s work-rate was phenomenal.”

There are some gems in the AIL, both polished by the professional game and unpolished by it. Taylor played for the Munster Under-18s and Under-19s before his performances revived the interest of the province’s academy, but although there was never a formal offer, Taylor preferred to complete his four-year degree in Finance.

Cork Con’s James Taylor: ‘To win the AIL would cap everything off in my rugby-playing career so far’Opens in new window ]

He now combines working with Deloitte, where he is doing a graduate programme in the tax department, with training twice a week and playing each week for Con, without which he says he would crack up. He has an inner contentment with the balance to his life which this title-winning campaign has not changed, at least not significantly.

“No, I don’t think this makes me want to go down that route any more or less than I already do. I’m just going to savour this now for the next couple of weeks hopefully and rebuild then for the following year.” That said, he’s made plans for the week ahead.

“I’ve pretty much the week booked off work. I’ll use that as best I can.”

Nor will this success diminish his or Con’s desire to win more titles.

“Absolutely. The average age is ... I’m not sure, but the majority of the lads are 22 or 23 years old. For long periods of the season, myself and Sean Duffy were the oldest on the team at 25. For a team like Con to have that age-grade on the senior team bodes well for next year as well.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times